Gareth Evans talks about journey to The Raid, and discovering star Iko Uwais

The Raid is already being talked up as potentially this year’s best action movie, the fantastic Indonesian movie drawing comparisons to the likes of Die Hard, and also bringing the house down when it screened at Glasgow Film Festival for the culmination of the two-day FrightFest.

We spoke to director Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais to find out more about the movie, and why those who have seen it are getting quite so excited.

Gareth told us: “The Raid is basically about a SWAT team that are raiding a building that’s own by a drug baron.

“The idea is that the building hasn’t been touched by cops for 10 years, and because of that the boss has rented out rooms on every floor to criminals and gangs.

“As the SWAT team go up the floors suddenly they get spotted, so the whole building gets locked down and the lights go out, and now they have to fight their way through every room and every floor.”

With Gareth translating, Iko explained that he plays a character called Rama: “He’s new to the force, still a rookie, hasn’t got much experience in terms of the type of mission that they’re going into.

“Throughout the process of that mission and that assignment, he has a sort of complexity because of the thoughts of his pregnant wife, who’s waiting for him back home.”

(Warning: the trailer contains graphic scenes of violence)

So how did a Welsh director suddenly emerge acclaimed as the director of an Indonesian martial arts/action movie?

Gareth explained: “My wife’s Indonesian/Japanese. We lived together in Wales for a couple of months, and she hadn’t really settled, I wasn’t doing much in terms of the industry itself – I hadn’t pushed myself enough to get noticed.

“She found me work as a director on a documentary out in Indonesia. That documentary was about pencak silat, and that was my first experience of that martial art.

“I’ve always been a fan of kung fu films and muay thai since I was a kid, but this was the first time that I got to actually see silat.

“Throughout that documentary I got a feel of what it would be like to live and work in Indonesia.”

Explaining how he discovered Iko, Gareth continued: “While I was working on the documentary I travelled to a lot of different places to learn about silat and different people that’s learnt silat, in West Sumatra, in Java, in Jakarta.

“When we went to Jakarta we went to the house of [Iko’s] master, because his master was one of the people we were filming, and that’s how we ended up meeting him.

“Our focus in the documentary was about the master, but I started to film the group practising as well, and that’s when I first saw Iko.

“It was one of those things where it was apparent very early on, even back then, that the way he performs silat, there was a certain amount of screen presence, and a style to it. It worked on camera.

“My wife was my production manager on the documentary, so I just kept elbowing her and saying ‘God, get in touch with him. We’ve got to use him for something.”

The pair first worked together movie-wise on 2009’s martial arts film Merantau. So how was it for Iko to appear onscreen?

“He said that was the first time he had ever done anything in terms of film or performance,” Gareth translated for us of Iko’s answer. “It was a learning curve for him, because it was the first time to figure out how to adapt it to work in front of the camera.”

Gareth then explained how after Merantau they wanted to do a much bigger and more ambitious project, but being unable to secure financing after a year and a half they opted for the more achievable The Raid, their “plan B”.

In terms of reference points for The Raid, he said: “I started watching a lot of films for research purposes, so Die Hard and Assault on Precinct 13.

“One of the key ones was actually a Roman Gavras music video, M.I.A. Born Free. It’s such a great music video, I loved it so much. That gave us a visual style then, and that gave us this leaping off point – we’d show that video to the crew.

Now that that movie has already done so well in securing high-profile distribution in the UK and the US, that other project they had been trying to get off the ground has now been adapted to work as the sequel to The Raid.

Gareth said: “We were developing The Raid, and I looked at that old project and I was thinking: ‘What can we do to link these two together?’ I decided to make this one work as a direct follow-up, a sequel to it.

“We’re going to start pre-production on that in September, and then start shooting it in January, with a view to getting it ready for some time the middle to end of next year.”

Of interest in and from Hollywood, he added: “My immediate future is to do the sequel to The Raid. After that I want to prepare to have something ready to do outside of Indonesia then.

“The idea is that I’ll do one film in Indonesia, one from outside, and go back and do a film in Indonesia as well. I’ve got five or six projects that I want to do with him in Indonesia, more and more ideas of finding different ways he can beat people up. So fingers crossed we can find a balance between the two.”

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